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Published: September 8th 2017
After the majesty of Dubrovnik and Kotor, Split was a slight comedown. The old town was still impressive, but there wasn't much else to it apart from being a good base to reach other points of interest. So personally, I wouldn't spend more than one day exploring Split itself then take day trips (or just hit the beaches). We visited Krka National Park and Trogir from Split.
Split's old town is made up in large part of Diocletian's Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one that is free to enter, since it is full of homes, shops and restaurants no-one can charge an entrance fee.
We first entered the palace through the main gate, the Golden Gate, where you will find a huge statue of Diocletian himself. I found it quite funny that to me he looked like a Disney baddy, but I guess it is not that funny as he really was a villain. He was responsible for one of the bloodiest persecutions of Christians. One story is that of Lucia of Syracuse, a young woman who had promised herself to the church, unbeknownst to her mother who in turn promised her to a young, wealthy pagan.
Diocletian - no not a Disney villain!
When he found out that he wouldn't be getting his hands on her dowry after all, he denounced her to Diocletian's henchmen, who tortured and killed her. Part of her torture was having her eyes gouged, so she became the patron saint of the blind, and the crypt of St Domnius' is dedicated to her. That was more than enough gory history for me!
Other points of interest included the Peristyle, the main square of Diocletian's Palace where crowds still gather to watch various concerts and performances, and the imposing Bell Tower, which I climbed and subsequently and unexpectedly developed a sudden fear of heights! The staircases were so narrow and steep, then as you get higher you end up having to ascend what is essentially rickety old scaffolding with not an awful lot stopping you from falling to your death. My legs turned to jelly and I felt paralysed by fear, not something I can remember ever happening to me before. Around me were a mixture of people who took it all in their stride, including children casually sitting and posing on the wide-open windowsills, causing my heart to be in my mouth, and other terrified people, including
a woman who turned back before making it to the top. I'm more glad than ever that I didn't bother climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, if the experience would have been like this but tilted!
There are a few beaches around Split, the most popular one being Bacvice. Probably because it is one of the Dalmatian coast's rare sandy beaches. This makes it especially popular with families, although the sand is pretty shallow, so while sunbathing you are still stabbed by rocks, reminding you that you are in Croatia! The water stays shallow till quite far out, so there were plenty of people happily sitting waist deep in the sea cooling down, some drinking beer. Bacvice Beach is said to be where 'picigin' originated from, a Croatian game where a group of people stand in the water and throw a small ball to each other which they aren't supposed to let drop. Many holidaymakers were giving this a go, but I have to admit to enjoying another form of entertainment more. In Croatia you can earn money back for returning plastic bottles and cans to shops, so it is a popular activity for older people to march around
Chocolate shop where you can try local flavours like fig or lavender
the beach all day looking for bottles to return to top up their pensions. Some of them worked in gangs, but I was rooting for a lady who worked alone. She meant business with her khaki bikini displaying muscles, baseball cap, crocs, Spar carrier bag and John Wayne walk. I wouldn't have messed with her and neither did the gangs who looked perilously close to encroaching on her turf. Yes, it's weird what I find amusing!
We returned to Split from Plitvice for our last night before catching our flight home, and stayed in a different area of Split at Znjan Beach. Generally a much smaller and less crowded beach I believe, it was deserted that last morning as the weather was still drizzly from the previous day's thunderstorms. The odd local still went into the sea for a swim, one of them telling me its temperature was still 24C, so I did too. It was choppy, but invigorating.
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